A ONE WAY STREET

Amongst the easy going, tolerant adherents of the religion of peace it has to be admitted that those ‘radical’ Muslims are a bit of a downer. These people actually take the Koran seriously. Thus torture, kidnapping and beheading are considered pretty normal fare for those who refuse to share their allegiance to fun loving, open minded Muhammad.

As we have seen things can get pretty tough for western Christians and Jews who fall into their hands. Things are much much worse for converts from Islam. Followers of Islam everywhere see it as an ‘opt in’ movement with no ‘opt out’ clause; once in you are in forever.

As Meriam Yehya Ibrahim from Sudan found out, even if you have been an Orthodox Christian all your life but your father was a Muslim that makes you one too and, according to all Muslims, there is no opt out possibility. Although now safe in the West Meriam was sentenced to death for the ‘crime’ of leaving an Islam she had never joined.

Meriam Arriving In the USA

          Meriam Arriving In the USA

A sheikh pled with the court at Meriam’s sentencing hearing,  ‘how dangerous a crime like this is to Islam and the Islamic community’. Which is precisely why they try to enforce their intolerant laws, if people were free to commit the ‘crime’ of leaving Islam that would undermine the Islamic power structure which keeps the politico/religious authorities in place. It can be dangerous to leave Islam.

In 2009 a web publisher from Iran, known only as FG, petitioned the Swedish government for political asylum to escape the persecution of the all powerful Iranian government. Sadly asylum wasn’t granted. The Swedish government did not think that publishing material against the Iranian government and being threatened with imprisonment and death was sufficient reason to be given asylum in oh so liberal Sweden.

In 2010 the Iranian took an action placing him beyond the pale in Iran; FG committed the crime of converting to Christianity. Once again he asked the Swedes for asylum, this time with religious persecution added to his plea. In 2011 the Swedish government again denied his request.

Given that under Shari’a law apostacy from Islam is a capital offense and Shari’a courts aren’t noted for their judicial fairness, and since no Islamic regime likes to be criticised for its political doctrine, FG has two pretty strong counts against him.

He then appealed to the Fifth Section of the European Court of Human Rights, no doubt imagining that given his circumstances he had a pretty good case for Sweden’s decision to be overturned. In another of those decisions which make ordinary people shake their heads in disbelief the ECHR found that ‘sending him back to Iran did not violate his right to life since Iranian authorities may have been unaware of his religious conversion.’ The decision further went on to ‘reason’ that FG could probably avoid any danger (by which they mean somehow stay alive) if he kept his faith a ‘private matter’.

At least the ECHR seem to have accepted that there is no doubt that Christian converts in Iran face very real and substantial danger if they are open about their faith.

We can have no idea of the faith, if any, of the members of the Fifth Section of the ECHR. However, anyone with the scantiest knowledge of any faith would know that an integral part of faith, particularly the Christian faith, is being able to worship openly and to discuss faith with others.

Religious freedom, which Muslims have everywhere in the civilised world, means freedom to be open about one’s faith. Meanwhile, FG ‘may’ be safe if he keeps his mouth shut and goes underground.

FG has not given up. The unbelievably naive decision of the Fifth Section has been appealed to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR.

According to Ann Buwalda, Executive Director of Jubilee Campaign which, along with Alliance Defending Freedom, has just been allowed to represent FG, “This case demonstrates the need for countries in Europe to more clearly understand the nature of cases involving converts to Christianity. The grounds given by Sweden for denying asylum to Sweden, failed to take into account internationally recognized standards.”

As ADF Legal Counsel, Paul Coleman said, “The human rights situation for Christians in Iran has been well-documented, and there is little doubt that a Christian convert would face real risk of harm if he is forced to return to his country. Christians should be able to practice their faith openly without fearing for their lives.”

Swedish Muslims Enjoying Freedom Of Expression

Swedish Muslims Enjoying Freedom Of Expression

With a single exception, every chapter of the Qur’an begins with the words Bismillah ar-rahman ar-rahim, “In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.”

Will we find Sweden’s sizeable Muslim population, who enjoy total freedom of religion, petitioning their government to be merciful and compassionate and allow FG to experience the same freedom of religion in Sweden that they have?

Will they petition the government of Iran, run by their fellow Muslims, to allow FG to experience the same freedom of religion they have in the West?

Or, as is more likely, will we see yet again that for Islam toleration is a one way street, and most dishonourably it’s a street along which our governments and courts are content to walk?

THE CLUE IS IN THE NAME

Our western progressives are slightly more cunning than Basil Fawlty. Not a high bar you will agree, but an important one – it enables them to rewrite reality.

We remember the episode of Fawlty Towers where the hotel has a group of German guests. Basil is so terrified of giving offence that he warns all the staff, ‘Don’t mention the war’. Naturally he concentrates so much on this warning that he is soon goose-stepping around the dining room.

Basil 01

Western progressives are so much better. They warn us never to mention Islam in connection with any wrongdoing whatsoever, and they actually manage to do it, despite the reality.

September’s issue of Life and Work, the increasingly feeble denominational magazine of the fast shrinking Church of Scotland, has an article concerning persecuted Christians in Nigeria. Whilst glad that the magazine finds space to mention our suffering brethren the article is disturbing, and not just for what it says about events in Nigeria.

According to Life and Work those who burned houses and churches and killed Christians were ‘militants’.

Militants are trade unionists who call wildcat strikes for better pay and conditions. Militants are environmentalists who destroy GM crops. Militants are animal rights protesters who raid experimental medical laboratories. Murderous gangs who perpetrate atrocities are not ‘militants’ they are bloodthirsty terrorists bent on imposing a vile ideology by the most extreme violence imaginable.

Life and Work never mentions the source of the ‘militancy’ behind these atrocities. Perhaps they were militant vegetarians. Maybe militant aromatherapists. As far as Life and Work is willing to admit those who slaughtered Christians in Nigeria could have been militant morris dancers.

Give Into Our Demands Or We Will Wave Our handkerchiefs At You

Give Into Our Demands Or We Will Wave Our Handkerchiefs At You

Are the editorial staff of Life and Work afraid that if they admit that these atrocities were committed by Islamic terrorists then the good burghers of Brechin, Bathgate and Broxburn will be so inflamed they will immediately start setting fire to the Pakistani convenience store on the corner? Given the demographic of the CofS the members would probably be afraid their zimmer frames would melt in the heat.

Not only do well-meaning politically correct Christians insist on self-censorship. We have theological scholars amongst our leading politicians repeatedly assuring us that the murderous Islamic terrorist group ISIS is not Islamic. The reaction of most of us is simply, ‘The clue is in the name’.

Yvette Cooper, from the Labour front bench, has described ISIS as, ‘a perverted, oppressive ideology that bears no relation to Islam.’

Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond assures us: ‘Isil’s so-called caliphate has no moral legitimacy; it is a regime of torture, arbitrary punishment and murder that goes against the most basic beliefs of Islam.’

David Cameron, has explained: ’What we are witnessing is actually a battle between Islam on the one hand and extremists who want to abuse Islam on the other. These extremists, often funded by fanatics living far away from the battlefields, pervert the Islamic faith as a way of justifying their warped and barbaric ideology.’

Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, disagrees with our home grown Islamic experts. Speaking of the Obama administration’s refusal to recognise the Islamic nature of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria he says:

“Please, if anybody in this administration is listening, stop telling us Muslims what is Islamic. I mean, so he’s saying this is compounding the sin? How about when he shakes and hugs the king of Saudi Arabia for their being custodians of the Holy Mosque and yet they have imprisoned apostates, liberal Muslims. They’re a mysogynistic nation that treats their women as third class citizens. Or the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, or the Islamic Republican of Iran. Hundreds of millions of Muslims running governments all over the world that line their prisons and torture Christians and Jews and Muslims, that’s Islamic? And ISIS came out of thin air? ISIS is a by-product of those ideologies. And to deny it and dismiss it, they’re trying to bury us reformers from having a seat at the table.”

The Reformation of the Christian church came from within, well-meaning Islamic, Buddhist or Zoroastrian political figures didn’t assure Luther, Calvin and the others that they were right and that those stuck in the past weren’t really Christian. If Islam is ever going to be reformed, and it won’t be without massive political dislocation and bloodshed, then their reformation must come from within.

Our progressive elites imagine that if we say nice things about Islam and refuse to mention Islamic intolerance of other religions then Muslims will roll over and become adorable puppies whose tummies we can tickle and take for a romp in the garden. In enabling Islamic theocrats and by not condemning the Wahhabi ideology that underpins the terror groups, western progressives undermine peaceful reform-minded Muslims and delay reformation.

We in the West devoutly hope that Islam will reform, for our own safety if nothing else. But we cannot expect Islam to reform whilst we support and sell arms to regimes like Saudi Arabia which exports the Wahhabi ideology underpinning groups like ISIS and Al Qaida. If we actively support misogynistic, bigoted and sectarian Islamic regimes then we cannot expect Muslims who wish to reform Islam to make any headway. We cannot hope to see reformation in Islam if we in the West refuse to challenge the source of the atrocities being committed daily throughout the world in the name of Allah.

By refusing to confront the vile ideology and those who fund and export it we find ourselves working against the very people who might reform Islam. If we wish to see a separation of mosque and state, if we wish to combat the oppression of women, if we wish to see a peaceable Islam, then we must name and crush the ideology which is the foundation of such evils. The ideology must be undermined, not ignored.

NOW FOR THE HANGOVER

So that’s it. The votes cast and counted, the result announced. Scotland remains in the union. Alex Salmond leader of the independence campaign is resigning as First Minister of Scotland. It’s all over. No. Now the fighting really begins.

Salmond is clearly the most astute politician in Britain today. Although he lost the ultimate vote it has to be acknowledged that he achieved something he would have been glad of at the beginning of the campaign.

He got the wording of the question he wanted; a positive response for independence or a negative response for the union. This shaped the campaign and gave the ‘Yes’ for independence a distinct advantage over the ‘No’ for remaining together.

He had asked for a third option on the ballot, a greater measure of devolution, or devo max. Salmond wanted devo max as he thought it an easier goal, and a major step towards independence. David Cameron thought he had got one over on Salmond when he refused the devo max option. Now that the referendum is over what is Scotland promised? Devo max.

Establishment politicians stayed aloof from the northern squabble, until they panicked in the last month at the surge in the polls for independence, one poll even giving the independence vote a lead. All three party leaders cancelled business down south and rushed north promising the Scots anything we wanted. They were like three drunken Hooray Henrys trying to impress a sceptical barmaid. We could get anything we wanted; tax raising powers, fiscal autonomy, Irn Bru on tap, deep fried heroin, we could have it if only we would stay with them.

What Can We Offer To Get Her To Come Home With Us?

What Can We Offer To Get Her To Come Home With Us?

We voted ‘No’ and it wasn’t because of desperate promises. Neither was it, as the independence campaign asserted, because of scaremongering by banks and big business. Who trusts a banker today? It was because we kept our feet on the ground and were not swayed by the whims of politicians of either side. The ‘No’ vote was despite the politician’s interventions; the dreams of the independence campaign or the fears of the union campaign.

All the Westminster promises, all the enticements were intended to do two things: firstly to retain power, and secondly, and more importantly, an attempt to reconnect with a population who have grown tired of politics as usual.

Top down politics was rejected, whether from Salmond holding out dreams of a millenarian utopia, or Westminster attempting to find technical solutions to a greater political problem. Ordinary people rejected both separation and ever more extravagant promises. It was the people who did what the establishment couldn’t, they thought hard and reacted with sense to hold the union together.

Now it’s England’s turn. Cameron, Miliband and even the duplicitous Clegg made their promises to get the Scots to stay. Now they have to satisfy the justified anger of the English. Why should English taxpayers fund expenditure in Scotland over which their MP’s have no say, whilst Scottish MP’s can make laws applying to England alone? The American colonies broke away with the cry of ‘No taxation without representation’, why not England?

Already the tripartite unionist agreement is breaking up with Labour leader Miliband rejecting Conservative leader Cameron’s proposals for greater devolution for England. Why? Short term political advantage, in that Scottish MP’s give Labour a large tribal representation without which they would have difficulty governing England in future.

Trus Me, I'm A Politician

Trus Me, I’m A Politician

Panicked politicians have screwed things up again. Party leaders made wild promises without thinking of the consequences or even consulting their parties. Now there will be pressure to turn the United Kingdom into a federation of fiercely competing localities. Greater devolution to Wales and Northern Ireland will be demanded. What about the English regions, the Midlands, the North East or South West? We are even hearing serious calls for devo max for English counties and cities.

If we thought we had got rid of back of an envelope political reactions with the departure of Tony Blair we were mistaken. Incredibly complex constitutional readjustments are going to have to be made. Why? Because party leaders panicked and made promises they hadn’t thought through.

Alex Salmond may have lost the referendum, but he ran rings around Westminster. If Alex Salmond is the most adroit politician of our day it is because of his undoubted political intelligence, and also because he was up against pygmies.

MARCHING WITH WOLVES

People are weird. We do the craziest things, often fall in love with the most unsuitable people.

We can perhaps understand, often through bitter experience, how this can happen to normal, well adjusted people like us, and we know it hurts. But what about when it happens to significant masses of people?

How do we explain the bizarre behaviour of many well meaning, soft hearted liberals and progressives.

Eighty years ago millions of Germans, especially German women, threw flowers and themselves at the feet of one of the vilest men to have lived, Adolph Hitler. In 1953 when Stalin died the commonest reaction was not joyous relief that the vicious monster was dead, but genuine tears of sorrow.

They were brainwashed we respond, inundated with propaganda for years. We are too familiar with the techniques of mass persuasion to be fooled like that. We are sophisticated, educated, discerning people, up to the tricks and whiles of those who would manipulate us.

The aging adolescents of the Left may still idolise such ghastly creatures as the racist, misogynist Che Guevara; or still believe that last century’s greatest mass murderer Mao was misunderstood and had his good side. But we have learned the lessons of history. They may still pine for the days when they marched carrying Viet Cong flags and waved little red books, but we know better.

Yet we find today’s progressive Left marching arm in arm with anti-Semitic militants and pro-jihadis who threaten the destruction of western liberal democracy. Gay solidarity groups come out in support of the speeches of radical Muslim clerics, who if they were back home would not hesitate to stone any homosexual straying across their path. Feminists march alongside men who denigrate women and would put them into burqas and force FGM on them. Strident Socialists argue the case for people who would ban trade unions.

The progressive Left is, and always has been, largely populated with romantics, often of a racist hue.

18th century sentimentalism gave credence to the idea of the noble savage, the man and woman uncorrupted by civilisation with greater and deeper values than those of pressurised Western society. The French of course played a large part in this, though for once we can’t blame Rousseau. It was Cartier and Montaigne who wrote of le bon savauge. For them clearly the Fall had never occurred. If we ignore Scripture we always end up to our eyes in problems.

The English as usual were a wee bit more hard headed, at the same time as some were romanticising man in a state of nature Hobbes was writing of the state of nature being a ‘war of all against all’ in which lives were ‘solitary, poore, nasty, brutish and short’. Hardly rose-tinted but more accurate than the picture painted by the sentimental romantics of American Indians living in peaceful bliss, at one with nature and each other. A view assiduously perpetuated by Hollywood and media in films such as the multi-Oscar winning ‘Dances With Wolves’.

Our modern day romantics share the same sentimental bias. In the sixties wisdom was supposedly to be found in charlatans such as Guru Maharaji and Bhagwan Shree Rajnesh. The ideology which gave birth to the modern world was to be shunned in favour of the ideologies which kept huge swathes of the Third World in poverty, racked by disease and famine, and ruled by corrupt governments. As long as it came from the East and differed from what was known it got a free pass from questioning scrutiny.

Today the romantic revolutionaries give a free pass to the ‘freedom fighters’ of Hamas and Hizbullah, the ‘vibrant multi-cultural’ communities who live in the West whilst rejecting the West, and any expression of anti-Semitic bigotry. It is to such favoured groups that they apply the racism of lower expectations. Expecting lower standards of behaviour and discourse from non-Western ethnic groups and ideologies is deeply racist.

We even find well meaning liberal progressives such as George Monbiot and Prof  Lisa Jardine comparing the young men and women from the West who go to Syria to join in jihad, sometimes with ISIS, with the men and women who travelled to Spain in the thirties to fight Franco. The volunteers with the International Brigades, and others who went to fight Franco, went to support a legitimate government in its struggle against a vicious fascist military junta. Our present day jihadists go to support a vicious fascist military junta in its struggle against established regimes.

Our romantics refuse to learn the lesson of history. In 1979 a coalition consisting of the Iranian Communist Party, the Marxist Fedayeen Organisation, and hardline Islamists led by Ayatollah Khomeini ousted the Shah, killed his functionaries and established a new regime hailed by progressives as a huge step forward. The regime then began to imprison, torture, shoot and hang their one time comrades.

Our sentimental progressive romantics should learn the lesson of history. Love affairs with the unsuitable invariably end badly.

 

THE COST OF FROZEN PEAS

When we wake up on the 19th, whatever the result of the referendum vote, the UK will be altered completely. And we have the blinkered establishment elites to thank for it.

If the vote is to regain independence the UK will be shattered, its influence on the world stage greatly reduced; the rump UK will be Belgium, only with a government. If the vote is for the retention of the union then we will enter into a period of federal readjustment with the justifiable demand for greater autonomy not only for Wales but for the regions of England. On the 19th we will wake to a radically different UK.

Since the beginning of the campaign two and a half long years ago those arguing for separation have presented a vision for a future Scotland. That vision may well be flawed but it presents a hope for a future. Those campaigning to retain the UK have maundered on about how it will cost every one of us either £500 or £1000 a year if we regain our independence. What they have never done in any coherent fashion is present a vision of a future UK.

This was exemplified last week when, suddenly frightened by the polls, the two main party leaders, David Cameron for the Conservatives and Ed Miliband for Labour were joined by Nick Clegg from the Lib Dems on a sudden cross-border raid into Scotland. Did they really imagine a quick visit from three posh rich boys from the south of England telling us how much they wanted us was going to be anything but counter-productive?

It is as if Westminster didn’t realise that a major reason for the demand for independence is the desire to be done with Westminster and its party fixers, shady political deals, outright lies and scandals. It’s all too easy to say ‘We can do better than that’. The idea that an independent Scotland will be free of shady political deals is a fantasy, but at least it is not the certainty of more of the same.

Ed Miliband did stay on whilst the other two rushed back to their comfort zone of London. But then Miliband has more to lose. Without a reliable block of Labour MPs his chance of gaining and keeping power is greatly diminished. Again his speech and the posters displayed were about the cash cost of independence. There was even a giant placard displaying the projected cost of household items before and after independence, as though we were going to decide the future of our country for many generations on the price of a pack of frozen peas.

In Scotland we have heads, but we also have hearts. This referendum is about the nuts and bolts of which currency we will use, how we will raise taxes and distribute them, and yes, even the price of frozen peas can be taken into consideration. But it is about more than that, it is about how we see our future, it is about our vision for Scotland.

We have rarely had emphasised the very real achievements of the UK, other than sporting achievements. The threat seems to be that if Scotland leaves the union we will win fewer medals at future Olympic Games; oh, the horror of it all.

More importantly we have never been presented with a clear vision of a future united UK. At a moment like this when the future of the UK is on a knife edge the prospect of more of the same is hardly enticing.

Since the union the UK has achieved a great deal. We certainly have made mistakes, but we have also given the world much. The UK has been a hot bed of innovation, development and culture. Together we have had an impact intellectually and politically far outweighing our numbers.

People decry the empire, and it is a good thing it is gone. But don’t be led down the path of chronological arrogance and decry it because it didn’t match up to 21st century political correctness. In an age of empire most of the subjugated peoples of the world would have preferred British rule to any other, especially the Belgian.

It was Britain and her empire who stood alone against fascism and Nazism whilst the rest of the world looked on. There is the story of the Scottish private on the beach at Dunkirk who remarked to his sergeant, ‘If the English surrender it’s going to be a long war’. But the English didn’t surrender and together we gave the rest of the world a chance to save itself.

Here in the UK we are far from perfect, glaring flaws exist in our society, but we still have much to offer each other and the world, much more than we can separately. Scotland can go it alone, there is no doubt about that. The question is not can we, but should we.

Never has the verse from Proverbs seemed more applicable, ‘Where there is no vision the people perish’.

CRIMINAL FOOTBALL

In the UK we are already suffering shell shock from the barrage of television programmes about the Great War. There is more to come. It was only in August that we marked the centenary of war’s outbreak, we have another four years to go.

Just wait till December and we will have documentaries, comedies and earnest panel discussions about the Christmas Truce, the moment when in several places on the Western Front British and German troops put down their weapons, fraternised, exchanged gifts, and even in three or four instances played football.

Drama reconstruction of WW1 Christmas Truce

This moment of peace and humanity in the midst of carnage has assumed symbolic proportions, as have the actions of the respective high commands in forbidding such fraternisation. After all, if opposing sides played football they might become friendly and thus be less inclined to kill each other.

Thus it was a matter for rejoicing when, last week, in southern Israel two groups of young children played a football (soccer for those who don’t know better) tournament. About 80 youngsters between the ages of 6 and 16 took part in the tournament in Kibbuts Dorot in southern Israel, a place where rockets launched from the Gaza Strip had landed. The Israeli children came from communities located near the besieged Gaza Strip, while the Palestinian children came from West Bank.

Naturally there was tension between the two groups at first but it quickly evaporated as the excitement of the game took over. Ofer, 11, from Sderot, a town in southern Israel where many rockets had landed, said: ‘It’s great to come back here and enjoy our time [together], after weeks of being stuck at home during the war.’ Qusai, another 11 year old, this time from the West Bank, said: ‘I love it when we play together like this. I hope that one day there will be peace between Arabs and Jews and that there will be no more wars and death…’

Football Children

The reaction of the Palestinian Authority and Fatah was reminiscent of those of the two High Commands in the Great War, this was too dangerous to be allowed. Jibril Rajoub, Deputy Secretary of Fatah’s Central Committee and Head of the Palestinian Supreme Council for Sport and Youth Affairs, stated that: ‘Any activity of normalisation in sports with the Zionist enemy is a crime against humanity.’

Jibril Rajoub

Jibril Rajoub

As someone who has followed lower league Scottish football I have witnessed some games which could justly be described as criminal but never one that could be described as ‘a crime against humanity’.

As well as being a crime against humanity the football tournament was also viewed as treasonous. Denouncing the match as ‘a crime and an unpatriotic and immoral act,’ Abd Al-Salam Haniyeh, son of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and, believe it or not, a member of the Palestinian Olympic Committee, demanded that Rajoub ‘immediately interrogate the organizers of the match, settle the account with them and prosecute them on charges of serious treason against the blood of the Martyrs [who died in the Gaza war] and violation of the decisions made by the Palestinian sports community’s leadership.’

Haniyeh is clearly a chap who thinks that when Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics announced the sporting principle that, ‘The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part’.

The leadership of Fatah’s branch in the hometown of the boys participating in the match ‘strongly condemned’ the event. Fatah branch secretary Dr Kamal Makhamresh said that participation in the match ‘was an individual act, conceived by sick souls’, and ‘urged the resients to supervise their children and distance them from these kinds of activities, which damage our cause’.

We have recently seen how Hamas deals with those they think are guilty of treason, ‘Never mind that western nonsense about fair and impartial judicial process, let’s just go for a public execution men and women who might not agree with us.’

Can we assume that their bitter rivals in Fatah will be any more just when they ‘interrogate’ and ‘settle the account’ with those ’sick souls’ who committed ‘serious treason against the blood of the Martyrs’ by organising a children’s football tournament?

We can be sure that when Christmas 2014 rolls around we will find progressive mouthpieces in the West lauding the soldiers who in 1914 laid down their weapons to play football, and excoriating those officers who made them stop. That the same mouthpieces support people who see children playing football together as an act of treason will not seem to them to be hypocritical in the least.

THOMAS THE FASCIST STEAM ENGINE

You may disagree but if the Guardian did not exist it would be necessary to create it. Not because of the sometimes perceptive journalism, not even for their kindness in employing dyslexic proof readers, but simply for the laughs.

Every so often, amongst the reports on the rising tide of Islamophobia, vile actions by Jews (sorry Zionists), brave homosexuals defying convention by actually kissing on screen and the latest machinations of the far right to seize power and chain every woman to the kitchen sink, we find a very earnest article so outrageous that it seems like a parody of a very earnest article in the Guardian. Then we realise; no, the children have been let loose with the crayons again and the wallpaper is in a terrible mess.

Thomas A Deadly Menace To Civilisation

Thomas
A Deadly Menace To Civilisation

The latest example of the spoof that is real is an article by Tracy Van Slyke, a writer we are warned who ‘researches and writes about the intersection of social justice and pop culture’. Her latest venture into the dangerous world of subliminal messaging promoting a fascist takeover of the West is Thomas the Tank Engine. If McCarthy searched for reds under the bed Van Slyke searches for fascists in the toy box.

It seems that Revd WV Awdry, engine enthusiast and father of a measles stricken young son Christopher, was not writing something to cheer up a little boy, he was actually penning a hymn of hate, a paean of praise to all that is wrong and wicked in the modern world.

The Thomas stories are clearly, according to Ms Van Slyke, such a dangerous source of ‘subversive messages’ it is imperative that ‘children everywhere’ must be ‘saved’. Consider this, Thomas and his chums, ‘toil away endlessly on the Isle of Sodor – which seems forever caught in British colonial times’. Clearly in the Van Slyke imagination this is an attempt to indocrinate little children in the values of empire and exploitation. Most of us would think that one might as well complain that Shaekespear is too Tudor or John Grisham too American.

Further the characters are all male which sets ‘a bad example for girl wannabe train engineers’. To further the wickedness they are controlled by a fat, ‘imperious, little white’ man who acts as the ‘Monopoly dictator of their funky little island’.

Mr Awdry, born in 1911, spent his adult life serving in country parishes mainly in the West of England and also in the Isle of Man, or Sodor as the diocese is termed. The stories are set in the 1940s, a time when Britain was, in the term employed by Greg Dyke when director general of the BBC, ‘hideously white’. In fact in 1945 the Isle of Man was 100% white and today is pretty much the same. Nevertheless, that the Fat Controller is white is enough to cause Ms Van Slyke a fit of the vapours.

The Thomas books and TV programmes are viewed as a poisonous stew of ‘classism’, ‘sexism’, and ‘anti-environmentalism bordering on racism’. Thomas is banned in the Van Slyke household because, ‘The constant bent of messages about friendship, work, class, gender and race’ undoubtedly send her ‘kid the wrong message’. Van Slyke urges us to, ‘Look through the steam rising from the coal-powered train stacks’, and you will quickly ‘realise that the pretty puffs of smoke are concealing some pretty anachronistic messages’.

The substance of the environmental racism accusation lies in the steam-diesel dichotomy. All the nice characters are steam engines and the nasty characters dirty diesels. This is not because Mr Awdry, at a time when diesel was replacing steam, was nostalgic for the engines of his youth. Not for a moment; it becomes clearly racist when we note that the nice steam engines emit white smoke whilst the nasty diesels emit black smoke. Obviously isn’t it?

In ‘Tickled Pink’ the other engines make fun of James when he is painted pink ‘”What are you doing James? You’re a big pink steamie,” says Diesel, the bad-boy engine.’ Once again we can be in no doubt as to what the underlying message is in that story.

Ms Van Slyke has ears so keen she can hear bats never mind dog whistles. It is possible to go on, but why spoil your fun? Next time you are down and feel that the world is closing in on you, read the article, it is sure to make you smile.

The Guardian, don’t you just love it?